Literary Sequels

2019 was a year of literary sequels: bestselling authors expanding on fictional worlds they created, in some cases decades after the original book was published. Find Me by André Aciman is one such example, published 12 years after Call Me By Your Name. But it's hardly a new phenomenon—here are some of the most noteworthy literary sequels to have hit the shelves, often to the surprise and delight of readers everywhere.

Cover of <i>The Testaments</i> by Margaret AtwoodThe Testaments by Margaret Atwood (2019)
Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, 34 years between books

Due to her growing frustrations with the current social climate and a desire to depict the fall of Gilead, Margaret Atwood was inspired to finally revisit the dystopian world that she created in the 1980s, in one of the biggest launches the literary world has seen since Harry Potter. The Testaments won the Booker Prize alongside Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other—the first tie for the prize since 1992.

Cover of <i>Olive, Again</i> by Elizabeth StroutOlive, Again by Elizabeth Strout (2019)
Sequel to Olive Kitteridge (2008), 11 years between books

In 2009, Elizabeth Strout won the Pulitzer for her unapologetically blunt and fierce Olive Kitteridge—years later, after thinking she was done with the character, she sat down one day and Olive "just showed up," Strout told the New Yorker. Characters from Strout's novels Amy and Isabelle and The Burgess Boys also make an appearance in the sequel.

Cover of <i>Go Set a Watchman</i> by Harper LeeGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (2015)
Sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), 55 years between books

The controversy surrounding this long-awaited sequel is well-documented. It sold 1.1 million copies in the first week, making it the fastest-selling book in HarperCollins' history, but did Harper Lee even want it to see the light of day? Ignoring decades of claims that Lee would never publish another book, her caretaker Tonja Carter claimed to have discovered the manuscript in 2014 and submitted it to Lee's publisher. Lee issued statements through Carter assuring the public that she was happy for Go Set a Watchman to be published, but she died before the controversy was fully resolved.

Cover of <i>The Stars in the Bright Sky</i> by Alan WarnerThe Stars in the Bright Sky by Alan Warner (2010)
Sequel to The Sopranos (1998), 12 years between books

A cult classic and bawdy depiction of adolescent drive and desire, Alan Warner's The Sopranos features a cast of female characters in a singing group, who travel from their small Scottish town to Edinburgh to participate in the finals of a national singing contest. Its sequel, featuring a grown-up version of the girl group and taking place mostly at Gatwick Airport as one of them loses her passport and ruins their plans of a holiday reunion, was longlisted for the Booker Prize.

Cover of <i>Closing Time</i> by Joseph HellerClosing Time by Joseph Heller (1994)
Sequel to Catch-22 (1961), 33 years between books

Closing Time takes place in New York City in the 1990s, revisiting characters that Heller introduced in his World War II satire Catch-22. Some authors are less stringent about their own worldbuilding than others: when asked about a significant inconsistency between the two books, Heller told the New York Times, "I know, but I decided to ignore it."

Cover of <i>The North China Lover</i> by Marguerite DurasThe North China Lover by Marguerite Duras (1991)
Reimagining of her own novel The Lover (1984), seven years between books.

The Lover is Duras's fictionalized autobiography about a young woman in French Indochina who falls in love with an older Chinese-Vietnamese man. After the death of the man the "lover" character was based on in 1990, Duras felt compelled to revisit these same characters, but rewrote their story from scratch—the result became The North China Lover.

Sadly, there is one sequel that we hoped would make an appearance, but did not...

Cover of <i>A Suitable Boy</i> by Vikram SethA Suitable Girl by Vikram Seth (date unknown)
Sequel to A Suitable Boy (1993)

One of the most highly anticipated literary sequels, Vikram Seth's A Suitable Girl, has a nebulous publication date that keeps getting delayed. A Suitable Boy, Seth's 1993 epic-length novel about a young girl named Lata and her three suitors famously has a sequel in the works, which will follow Lata as a much older woman, looking for a suitor for her grandson. Originally set for publication in 2017, there are currently no firm plans for its release.

Cover of Find Me by Andre AcimanAt BookBrowse, we believe that books are not an end in themselves but a jumping off point to new avenues of thought and discovery. This is why, every time we review a book we also explore a related topic, such as the above "beyond the book" article by Rachel Hullett for Find Me by Andre Aciman.

There are thousands more Beyond the Book articles to explore!

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